After her husband died in 1975, Rita (Reseda) Beauchamp moved out of their family house in Thornhill to a one-bedroom apartment — and found a job as a K-Mart store clerk.
She was 55.
The blue-collar job helped her support herself until her retirement in 1988. Twelve years ago, she moved into a subsidized apartment in north Toronto.
“I think life is worse now than it used to be. More and more people are struggling,” said the robust 90-year-old, who used to own a taxi business with her late husband, Gordon.

According to the 2010 Vital Signs report, the number of middle-income neighbourhoods in the city dropped dramatically to 29 per cent from 66 per cent between 1970 and 2005. And the gap just keeps growing.

Neighbourhoods where incomes fell 20 per cent or more during the same period doubled and now cover 43 per cent of Toronto’s 2.5-million population, mostly in the northeast and northwest inner suburbs.

They include home-owner immigrant families with slightly higher average incomes, old blue-collar families that have a high proportion of seniors like Beauchamp, foreign-born apartment dwellers with high education and younger visibility minority households in poverty.

University of Toronto social work Prof. David Hulchanski said the continuous growth of these neighbourhoods can be attributed to:

• The disappearance of good blue-collar jobs, replaced by temporary minimum-wage positions with no benefits.

• Declining social housing and rent supplements that have failed to meet increasing needs.

• Discrimination faced by an increasingly diverse immigrant population in accessing meaningful and gainful jobs.

• A deteriorating income support system.

“The amount of money you received in 1986 could better cover rents, food and other basic needs,” said Hulchanski.